Veterans let Whitecaps down in Soehn debut

June 2, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Posted in Whitecaps Season 2011 | Leave a comment

One of the striking things about Major League Soccer is the bizarre contrast in attendances.  Newer market teams play in full stadia of between 18,000 36,000 and then there are other teams, who have been around for longer who play in grounds which look virtually empty. I read in the Vancouver Sun today that there were about 7,000 or so fans to greet the Vancouver Whitecaps in Carson, California. Perhaps it is a mark of how poorly our team is regarded that few showed up to watch us play.

The 1-1 draw against Chivas on Wednesday night marked the first match in charge for Tommy Soehn. Though I regret it, I am still so angry at the top brass for firing Teitur Thordarson that part of me wanted the team to fall flat on its face under Soehn.  It didn’t, but was their any sign of improvement?  It is hardly fair to judge, given we played with 10 men for almost one-third of the game.

Soehn started the game with some dramatic changes in the line-up.  Joe Cannon started in goal, Bilal Duckett started at right back and Alexandre Morfaw started in centre midfield.  Greg Janicki gave way to Mouloud Akloul in partnering Jay DeMerit in centre defence.

New boys Cannon and Morfaw showed some definite rust, but Morfaw in particular looked like he is carrying at least 20 pounds of weight he shouldn’t be, chugging around like a tubby veteran rather than the 23 year old he actually is.   He looked pathetic in the beginning, and the game was clearly at a speed he couldn’t cope with.  If this is the kind of change our new coach is bringing, may God help us!  At best Morfaw eventually blended in with the game, but showed no real ability to influence the game in our favour.

Morfaw (and it has to be said, Koffie) allowed Chivas midfielder LaBrocca to slip away from them just after half time, and our veterans Cannon and DeMerit responded to the crisis as if they had just arose from a deep slumber.  Instead of closing LaBrocca down, our Captain DeMerit stood still and then turned his back in fear as Labrocca struck the ball into the back of our net.  Was that really the fearless Jay DeMerit out there?  He has been sending photos of scars on his leg about through Twitter, yet he is afraid to get hit by the ball.  I hope Soehn gave him a tounge lashing after the game, because that was disgraceful.  I don’t think you will find footage of Roger Kenyon doing that!

Joe Cannon was similarly useless on the play, flopping on the ground like a piece of limp lettuce after barely putting in an effort to stop the ball. I am not sure what Soehn said to the lads at half time, but it must have been a beautiful soft lullaby.  Our sleepwalking veterans, who should have been demonstrating alert leadership, cost us a crucial goal.  It was 1-0 Chivas USA.

Luckily for us Shea Salinas was awake and played a very good game. He created a goal for us about two minutes after we were down with his long probing run on the right side, and, after touches by Hassli and Chiumiento off of Shea’s low cross, Camilo smashed a spectacular curling effort past the condemned Chivas Keeper Kennedy.

Eric Hassli again put in a fantastic Herculean effort, only to be sent off after yet another rash challenge.  No one can question the big man’s commitment, but he shows a bit too much commitment in his tackles.  While it is debatable whether he should have been sent off, he did fly in with his studs up right in front of the ref and caught the Chivas player, who sold it for all it was worth.  That’s the third red for big Eric in Major League Soccer.  It would be easy to criticize him, but because he works so hard and plays with all his heart, I can’t do so.  In the first half he nearly scored with his deadly left foot, but the ball hit the crossbar.

After Hassli was sent off the Whitecaps were in damage control mode, and the chance of a win evaporated.

While Cannon and DeMerit helped save their reputations somewhat later on in the match with some fine plays, they had better stay sharp for entire matches if we are to get some wins.  Football teams live and die by defence in a game in which it is easier to defend than to score.  It is clear that teams at this level are capable of punishing us in an instant if we lose concentration.  If we are to get better our veterans had better lead by example.

They will quickly get the chance to show their leadership when we come up against one of the League’s best sides on Saturday, Real Salt Lake.   This will be a major test of character for new coach Soehn.

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